Motion #21

(grades 7-12)
Soft-bound, 88 page book, 36 reproducible task cards, full teaching notes.

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Observe, analyze and graph motion: from ambulation, to acceleration, to colliding marbles. Study objects in orbit and in free-fall. Make jet straws, catapults, and more. Mass, inertia, balanced and unbalanced forces, acceleration, action and reaction all make sense. Thank Newton for all this fun!

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Table of Contents for #21 Motion:

Preparation and Support

A TOPS Model for Effective Science Teaching • Getting Ready • Gathering Materials • Sequencing Task Cards • Gaining a Whole Perspective• Long Range Objectives • Review/Test Questions

Activities and Lesson Notes

  1. 1. Bodies At Rest
  2. 2. Bodies In Motion
  3. 3. Slide Show (1)
  4. 4. Slide Show (2)
  5. 5. Heel-Toe Shuffle
  6. 6. Heel-Toe Walk
  7. 7. Heel-Toe Graph
  8. 8. Tracking Collisions (1)
  9. 9. Tracking Collisions (2)
  10. 10. Out From Under
  11. 11. Book Drop?
  12. 12. The Hoop Trick
  13. 13. Tension
  14. 14. Make A Scale
  15. 15. Two Kinds Of Friction
  16. 16. Balanced Forces
  17. 17. Build An Accelerometer
  18. 18. Acceleration Is Change!
  19. 19. Seconds Per Second
  20. 20. Tracking A Curve
  21. 21. Earth-Moon Model
  22. 22. Force Over Mass...
  23. 23. Free Fall
  24. 24. Air Resistance
  25. 25. Clothespin Launcher
  26. 26. Jet Straw

  28. 27. Catapult (1)
  29. 28. Catapult (2)
  30. 29. Floor Tappers (1)
  31. 30. Floor Tappers (2)
  32. 31. Floor Tappers (3)
  33. 32. Click Along (1)
  34. 33. Click Along (2)
  35. 34. Click Along (3)
  36. 35. Rolling Pennies
  37. 36. Reaction Time

Supplementary Cut Outs

graph paper


Complete Master List for #21 Motion:

Key: (1st/2nd/3rd) denote needed quantities: (1st) enough for 1 student doing all activities; (2nd) enough for 30 students working in self-paced pairs; (3rd) enough for 30 students working in pairs on the same lesson. Starred* items may be purchased below.

  1. 1/10/10: meter sticks
  2. 8/80/80: meters of string
  3. * 20/200/200: size #16 rubber bands
  4. 5/50/50: books to incline a meter stick (or any solid support)
  5. * 1/2/2: rolls masking tape
  6. 1/10/10: paper drinking cups
  7. 1/10/10: scissors
  8. 3/30/330: marbles
  9. 8/60/80: pennies
  10. 2/20/20: sheets lined notebook paper

  11. 1/10/10: small flat buttons
  12. 1/1/1: roll adding-machine tape
  13. 1/5/10: felt-tipped pens
  14. * 1/1/1: spool thread
  15. 1/1/1: wall clock with second hand (or wrist watches)
  16. 1/10/10: calculators
  17. 5/50/50: index cards, 4x6 inches or larger
  18. 1/1/1: bottle dishwashing liquid (or bar of soap)
  19. * 1/1/1: bottle food coloring
  20. 1/5/10: jar lids or crucibles

  21. 1/5/10: Ping-Pong balls
  22. * 0.5/5/5: cups of oil-based clay
  23. * 3/15/30: baby food jars
  24. 1/4/10: narrow-mouth bottles (or Erlenmeyer flasks)
  25. * 1/1/1: roll aluminum foil
  26. * 1/3/3: boxes paper clips, must have uniform size
  27. 1/1/1: corrugated cardboard box at least 30 cm high
  28. 1/2/5: hole punch
  29. * 1/10/10: spring scales with a 2 to 3 Newton capacity, about 250 grams
  30. 1/4/10: plastic gallon milk jugs with handle

  31. * 1/4/10: flat washers
  32. 1/4/10: protractors
  33. 1/10/10: manila file folders
  34. 1/5/10: plastic straws (or glass tubing with smooth, fire-polished ends works even better)
  35. 1/1/1: cotton ball (or feathers)
  36. * 1/20/30: clothespins
  37. * 1/10/10: balloons
  38. 1/10/10: flexible drinking straws
  39. * 1/10/10: straight pins
  40. 1/4/10: bath or beach towels

  41. 1/10/10: stopwatches
  42. 1/4/10: pillows (or coats)

Convenient Shopping:

Aluminum Foil

regular strength, 20 square feet x 12 inches rolls

Buy aluminum foil here as a convenience item, or for less in many grocery stores.

Baby Food Jars - assorted

without lids

Each set includes 4 small, 4 medium and 4 large glass jars.


9 inch balloons, assorted colors

Some students may have latex allergy. Be sure to check before using.

Clay - modeling

oil-based, non-drying

Sold by the 100 gram stick, about 1/4 cup, in assorted colors (our choice). One stick serves a whole classroom for TOPS applications.


wooden, spring-action

These are handy lab items to keep in stock. We use them as bulb holders, tongs, clips, and more.

Food Coloring - blue

liquid, dispensed in 1 fl. oz. squeeze bottle

A handy science supply used to make water more visible. Used in #39 Corn and Beans, #41 Planets and Stars, and several other TOPS modules.

Paper Clips

size #1, steel, box of 100

Paper clips have 1001 uses in TOPS experiments, and science in general. Feel free to use paper clips you already have, but be aware that different brands come in different sizes and weights. In experiments where uniformity is important, don't mix brands.

Rubber Bands - assorted

10 grams each of thin, medium and thick

You get 30 grams of soft, strong, durable rubber bands: thin #16 (about 50), medium #32 (about 20), and heavy-duty #64 (about 10). These sizes are specifically selected to work in most TOPS experiments.

Spring Scale

2.5 Newton, 250 gram capacity

A zero-adjustable scale that measures weight and force at different angles (from vertical to horizontal) to the nearest 5 grams. Spring scales with twice this capacity (500 g) gives you only half the precision (nearest 10 grams) and may lack the needed accuracy. Used in #21 Motion and #22 Machines.

Straight Pins

steel, one and 1/16 inch long

Used in many TOPS experiments. Sometimes required for their magnetic properties. Don't purchase aluminum straight pins by mistake.

Tape - masking

3/4 inch x 55 yd roll

A handy science supply used in most TOPS modules.


light duty, 25 yd spool

Just plain old thread. Used in many TOPS titles, especially in Pendulums #34.

Washers - small

7/8 inch flat washer with 3/8 inch hole

Used in many TOPS labs. Item #1290 (medium tubing) used in #16 Pressure fits through these smaller washers.

Teaching Tips for #21 Motion:

We encourage improvisation - it's one of the main goals of our hands-on approach! You and your students might invent a simpler, sturdier or more accurate system; might ask a better question; might design a better extension. Hooray for ingenuity! When this occurs, we'd love to hear about it and share it with other educators. Please send ideas and photos to

Lesson by Lesson Objectives for #21 Motion:

  1. Lesson 1: To experience how the total mass of a resting body affects its tendency to remain at rest.
  2. Lesson 2: To experience how the total mass of a resting body affects its tendency to remain in motion.
  3. Lesson 3: To mark the progress of an object sliding down an incline. To relate the spacing between these marks to speed and uniform motion.
  4. Lesson 4: To graph the distance traveled by a sliding object as a function of time. To interpret the straightness and slope of the graph line as an indication of uniform motion and speed.
  5. Lesson 5: To participate in a timed race and compute average speed. To distinguish between average speed and constant speed.
  6. Lesson 6: To practice moving at a nearly-constant speed. To calculate distance traveled, knowing speed and time.
  7. Lesson 7: To graph distance as a function of time. To interpret the shape of each graph line.
  8. Lesson 8: To track elastic collisions between spheres of equal mass.
  9. Lesson 9: To track elastic collisions between spheres of unequal mass. To distinguish between elastic and inelastic collisions.
  10. Lesson 10: To experience how inertia keeps resting bodies at rest.
  11. Lesson 11: To recognize that the slow, steady application of force overcomes the inertia of a stationary book more readily than a sudden impulse does.
  12. Lesson 12: To apply the concept of inertia to learning a trick. To have fun.
  13. Lesson 13: To examine the distribution of balanced force in a line. To find 4 rubber bands of nearly equal length for later vector analysis.
  14. Lesson 14: To calibrate the stretch in a rubber band against a laboratory spring scale. To observe that this stretch is roughly linear.
  15. Lesson 15: To compare static friction with moving friction. To observe how static friction balances an applied force in an equal and opposite direction.
  16. Lesson 16: To study angles and magnitudes of opposing force vectors.
  17. Lesson 17: To build a simple acceleration indicator and observe how it responds to changes in speed and direction.
  18. Lesson 18: To understand acceleration as a change in speed or direction.
  19. Lesson 19: To describe speed and acceleration in numbers and units. To correlate motion with time vs. distance graph lines.
  20. Lesson 20: To track a marble as it is accelerated by gravity on an inclined plane. To understand why the marble follows a parabolic curve.
  21. Lesson 21: To develop a model that illustrates the interplay of inertia and gravity in orbiting satellites.
  22. Lesson 22: To understand Newton's second law of motion -- that acceleration increases in direct proportion to force and inverse proportion to mass.
  23. Lesson 23: To calculate the acceleration of gravity on 3 different masses. To observe that the result is always the same, roughly 10 m/sec^2 on Earth.
  24. Lesson 24: To understand why lighter objects fall through air more slowly than heavier objects.
  25. Lesson 25: To interpret an action-reaction event in terms of Newton's third law.
  26. Lesson 26: To build a rotating jet balloon. To understand its motion in terms of Newton's third law.
  27. Lesson 27: To construct a rubber band catapult for use in a study of force and mass.
  28. Lesson 28: To graph how acceleration is directly proportional to force and inversely proportional to mass.
  29. Lesson 29: To listen to paper clips on a string as they fall to the floor. To relate the frequency of these taps to the acceleration of gravity.
  30. Lesson 30: To graph the distance through which paper clips free-fall as a function of time. To calculate speed and acceleration.
  31. Lesson 31: To graph how free-falling paper clips accelerate as a function of time. To recognize that the acceleration of gravity is constant.
  32. Lesson 32: To compare acceleration down an incline with free-fall.
  33. Lesson 33: To clock the speed of a marble through units of distance that increase as perfect squares. To observe that these distances are proportional to time squared.
  34. Lesson 34: To graph the distance that a marble rolls down an incline as a function of time squared.
  35. Lesson 35: To recognize that gravity accelerates all objects, regardless of weight or mass, by an equal amount.
  36. Lesson 36: To measure reaction time by catching a dropping meter stick.

National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) for #21 Motion:

TEACHING Standards

These 36 Task Cards promote excellence in science teaching by these NSES criteria:
Teachers of science...
A: ...plan an inquiry-based science program. (p. 30)
B: and facilitate learning. (p. 32)
C: ...engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. (p. 37)
D: and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. (p. 43)

CONTENT Standards

These 36 Task Cards contain fundamental content as defined by these NSES guidelines (p. 109).
• Represent a central event or phenomenon in the natural world.
• Represent a central scientific idea and organizing principle.
• Have rich explanatory power.
• Guide fruitful investigations.
• Apply to situations and contexts common to everyday experiences.
• Can be linked to meaningful learning experiences.
• Are developmentally appropriate for students at the grade level specified.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

NSES Framework: Systems, order, and organization • Evidence, models and explanation • Constancy, change, and measurement
Core Concepts/Processes:In the absence of unbalanced forces objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion. • Objects have uniform acceleration in a gravitational field regardless of mass.

Science as Inquiry (content standard A)

NSES Framework: Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. • Design and conduct a scientific investigation. • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations. • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions. • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.
Core Inquiries: Investigate constant speed, acceleration and deceleration with time-vs.-distance graph lines.

Physical Science (content standard B)

NSES Framework: Properties and changes of properties in matter • Motions and forces
Core Content: Mass • Inertia • Balanced and unbalanced forces • Uniform motion • Acceleration • Collisions • Friction • Air resistance • Free fall • Action and reaction • F = ma<

Science and Technology (content standard E)

NSES Framework: Abilities of technological design • Understanding about science and technology
Core Content: Build jet straws and catapults.

History and Nature of Science (content standard G)

NSES Framework: Science as a human endeavor • Nature of science • History of science
Core Content: Sir Issac Newton (1643-1727), English mathematician and physicist, discovered laws of force and motion that profoundly affect the way we see and understand our world to this day.